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Ellicott, Elizabeth, ca. 1823–1887

An illustrated history of the county of Somerset : with some of its antiquities and traditions / by Elizth. Ellicott ... Alcombe, 1862.

England, 1862.
Physical Description:
2 v. (circa 500 leaves) : ill., map ; 29 cm.
Rare Books and Manuscripts
DA670.S5 E45 1862+ Oversize
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
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Copyright Status:
Copyright Not Evaluated
Archives & Manuscripts
Elizabeth Ellicott (ca. 1823-1887) was the daughter of Ann and Edward Ellicott. Her father was a retired Rear Admiral with the Royal Navy. His advanced age at Elizabeth's birth suggests that Elizabeth may have had older siblings, but none appear in the Ellicott household after 1841, when the English census began. The census lists Elizabeth living at home for most of her life, with the exception of her final decade when she appears to have worked as a "Professor of Music" at a private school in Surrey. It is in Surrey that she later died and was buried.
With the labels (perhaps business cards) of Mr. Stanley P. Brown of Welwyn Garden City and Rear Admiral (Edward) Ellicott affixed at front.
Three items have been loosely inserted in the volumes and are now housed separately (Suppl.). These include a letter from the Ellicott's former housekeeper, addressed to Mr. Brown (presumably Stanley P. Brown), who seems to have requested information from her. The former housekeeper is not able to provide a significant amount of detail, although she may have been asked primarily about the Ellicott home, Alcombe. Also present are two short clippings, the first concerning land in the parish of East Quantoxhead then in the possession of a Mr. Luttrell, the second concerning the Commercial School, Alcombe.
Bound in contemporary black half calf and green cloth, with gilt-tooled spine and title labels.
Manuscript history of the County of Somerset (England), profusely illustrated, by Elizabeth Ellicott, of Alcombe, Somerset. The volume is in Ellicott's hand throughout, with writing in pen and dark brown ink. Illustrations are watercolors (or, less frequently, gray wash) over pen and ink (or over graphite). The volumes together comprise circa 500 leaves (only the pages of text are numbered), and there is an illustration for almost every page. Her commentary on various cities in Somerset, as well as her illustrations, follow the format and scope of contemporary published guides and surveys, including hand-written indexes to both volumes. There is every indication that she took her project seriously (for a work so vast, there are almost no corrections) and regarded this project as being as close to a published piece as it could have been. It appears, however, that this work was never published.
The manuscript is a remarkable achievement in amateur geographical, historical, and artistic surveying. Ellicott's introduction notes that no comprehensive survey of the county had ever been made. Indeed, John Rutter's 1829 Delineations of the North Western Division of the County of Somerset seems to have been the only such book in publication, and was, as the title indicates, limited in geographical scope. An 1859 Murray's guide to Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, and Somersetshire also lacks the scope and depth of Ellicott's manuscript. Ellicott seems to have set out thus to document every village in the county. Her project surveys Somerset before the railroads had established full connectivity and changed populations and other features. Down to the very smallest villages, Ellicott makes sure that every place in the county is represented. It appears that she traveled to many (if not all) of the locations that she describes in the volumes.
For each Somerset locale, Ellicott covers such topics as folklore, geographical features, ancient ruins, local religious establishments, manor homes, anecdotes about former residents, historical significance, and architectural or other curiosities. About her own village, Alcombe, she records: "A village in the Parish of Dunster; designated in Doomsday book, 'the old valley' ... It was for many years the residence of Rear Adm'l Ellicott [the author's father] who entered the Navy in 1781. He saw considerable service during the war, after which he retired here, where he expired in 1847." She notes a Quaker burial ground in the village, "long ... unused," but says no more about herself or her family.
Ellicott includes a wide variety of watercolor and pen and ink pieces to illustrate various locations. Many of these illustrations appear to have been made en plein air, although some may have been adapted from images already in print. Her art evidences a very deft hand, with a particular flair for depicting stone buildings in varying lights, architectural details, and realistic, sweeping vistas of larger cities and/or outlying areas. Ellicott frequently includes smaller vignettes within the text, often depicting stone monuments, ancient artifacts, or other features of a place. Occasionally she includes botanical and other nature study watercolors, showcasing the native flora and fauna of Somerset.
Tipped in (and folded) at the beginning of the first volume is: Cruchley's railway & telegraphic map of Somerset : showing all the railways & names of stations, also the telegraph lines & stations ; improved from the Ordnance Surveys (London: G.F. Cruchley, [between 1855 and 1875]). The map is cataloged separately. Ellicott has added watercolors to the map to delineate Wansdyke, Roman camps, and Foss Road (Old Roman Foss).
Subject Terms:
Architecture, Domestic -- England -- Somerset.
Brown, Stanley P.
Church architecture -- England -- Somerset.
Ellicott family.
Ellicott, Edward.
Ellicott, Elizabeth, ca. 1823-1887.
Manors -- England -- Somerset.
Somerset (England) -- Antiquities.
Somerset (England) -- Biography.
Somerset (England) -- Buildings, structures, etc.
Somerset (England) -- Church history.
Somerset (England) -- Description and travel.
Somerset (England) -- Guidebooks.
Somerset (England) -- History.
Somerset (England) -- Maps.
Somerset (England) -- Pictorial works.
Views -- England -- Somerset.
Landscape drawings -- England -- Somerset.
Cityscapes -- England -- Somerset.
Botanical illustrations.
Wash drawings.

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